A rare glimpse of China during the Cultural Revolution. The film was shot and edited by Kevin Murphy who, at age 15, accompanied his father as part of the Canadian Government's first trade exposition in Beijing, held in the second two weeks of August 1972. As Murphy, now a criminal defence lawyer, recalls nearly thirty-four years on: "I shot the film in Super 8 myself and it was pretty much unwatchable in its raw state until I had the benefit of digital editing software which made it possible to edit out the bumpy bits and making the scene transitions less jagged." As Murphy recalls, this was "early days" -- just under six months after Nixon's visit in February. Canada had recently established a mission in Peking and was somewhat aheadd of other western powers in that regard. The teenaged Canadian was allowed to go on the trip because his father paid the cost of his trip and the youth worked for part of the time as a "gopher" for the Canadian Trade Exposition helping with sorting luggage, printing press badges, running messages.
The Canadian delegation consisted of three chartered Canadian Pacific jets loaded with press, bureaucrats, ministerial entourage (led by then Secretary of State for External Affairs Mitchell Sharp) and about 200 senior executives from some Canadian subsidiaries of U.S. corporations.
Although the Chinese regime did not ring up too many purchases at the trade fair, the Chinese in attendance were very inquisitive, lining up as early as 6 a.m. in the great plaza outside the exposition centre. Agents of the state travel agency also kept very close tabs on the delegation. If the movie has the feel of an amateur surveillance film at points it's because Murphy took seriously the official admonitions against filming "sensitive" locales.
The opening scenes show part of the Friendship Guest House compound and gate and some of the street traffic and Maoist signage. The Great Wall footage speaks for itself but Murphy and the other Canadians were not aware at the time that in the same period of our visit, the Red Army nearby had "borrowed" vast amounts of the ruined portions to revamp their army barracks.
The entrance to the Ming Tomb is briefly shown and the remainder of the footage is of the two-day train trip from Peking to Canton. Much of that footage reveals fascinating glimpses of rural life in remote central and southern provinces -- a landscape beautifully terraced and pockmarked by occasional feats of Maoist engineering. The people, the train yards filled with vintage locomotives, and beasts of burden fly by as the viewer glances out from the passing time train. A rare visual time capsule.
KeywordsChina, Great Wall; Beijing; Ming Tombs; Rural China;
November 16, 2007 Subject:
China 1980 super 8 footage
Dear Mr. Murphy,
I really really enjoyed your visual memoir of China. I am currently working on a documentary on sports in China which is being shot in China. We are looking for Super 8 films of the 80s in china shot by people from abroad and your film even if it is from the 70s could be good material. Or do maybe possibly have footage of the 80s?